Practising Major Arpeggios

Arpeggios are exercises like scales, but they are formed around the structures of chords. Remember the C major chord you just played? Well, you can see that the chord is formed by taking the first, third and fifth notes of the C major scale – C, E and G. Well, a C major arpeggio is based around just these three notes, plus another C at the octave above. Taking the right hand first, play the notes C E G with fingers 1 2 3, just as you did when you did the exercise for the C major scale. In addition use your 5th finger and play the next C note on the keyboard which is one octave higher. Try to keep your hand in the same position when you play this arpeggio – make sure the wrist is relaxed and don’t let it rotate noticeably, although a certain amount of movement is OK.

Right hand c major arpeggio

Once you have accomplished this with the right hand practise it with the left.

And as always when you have practised both the hand individually, play both the hands together smoothly and in sync.

These exercises are not mandatory chores that you need to do to learn the piano. Rather they are warm up exercise and also important techniques that will greatly improvise your agility and speed of playing in the long run.

 

Playing the Legato – A Basic Finger Exercise For The Piano

When you start to play the piano it is a ver good idea to do this basic finger exercise. This exercise is very simple and yet is amazingly effective in helping to play effectively and smoothly. The idea is to get you used to using all your 5 fingers to play notes in a sequence. As a beginner, a person is not used to using certain fingers for functions like pressing keys on the piano. The exercise is akin to learning who to touch type. A person who does not touch type will rarely use all of the fingers to type.

Another very important agenda of this exercise is to get you to play rhythmically. Generally what happens is that a person cannot exercise even control over all their fingers resulting in a breaking of rhythm as the notes are played irregularly. This exercise teaches you to play the notes rhythmically and it also strengthens your finger muscles for faster and better playing for future lessons.
The exercise is simple enough.advantages of learning the pianoStart with your right hand. Put the thumb on the middle C. And the next 4 fingers on the subsequent white notes, D E F and G.
Now you are to play these notes one at a time. Press the C with your thumb and release it. As you realise it press the next key D with your index finger. Release that and press the next note. Do this till you reach the final note G. There should be no gap between the notes and they should not overlap either. Each note should play out clearly and evenly. Now reverse the process. Play the note G with your 5th finger and move backwards to note C. Again play evenly and without gap between the notes. You can start slowly and increase the speed of playing as you get more adept. This style of playing is called the ‘legato’ which is italian for playing smoothly.

You should keep in mind that throughout this exercise, all the fingers of the hand must rest lightly on the keyboard even when they are not playing the note. They should not be lifted clear off. The note should be pressed and released while the fingers maintain constant contact with the keyboard.

You should repeat the same exercise for the right hand. You need to shift one octave lower. Which means choose the C note that is next down the keyboard on the left of the middle C. Put your first finger which in this case will be the little finger on the C note and the rest as you did with the right hand. Play in the same fashion, taking notes up and down.

Play both hands together
And now to make it tougher. Till now you have been practising the exercise individually. You need to play both hands together now with the same numbered fingers playing the same note together I.e. Thumb of the right hand and little finger of left hand plays the note C together and so on and so forth. This will really get bend co-ordination going.

This exercise should be repeated for a few minutes every day specially before starting to practise.
It also helps increase the speed of playing the piano tremendously.

 

 

What Is A Good Piano Playing Technique

What technique or style of playing the piano should you use?

Piano technique

Piano technique is something that is closely related to things like posture, hand position, key fingering and other physical aspects of playing the piano. These are just some of the things that are involved in Developing the right piano playing technique. 

Don’t confuse piano technique with how good someone sounds on the piano or how well he or she is playing a particular piece of music. The person may have practiced playing that particular song a lot and maybe good at it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is good technique involved.

So what is a good piano playing technique?

It all begins with what the masters tell you about how to sit, how to position yourself at the keyboard, how to place your hands on the keyboard, which fingers to use to press what key and how to move up and down the keyboard dividing the entire lengthy of the piano keyboard between your 2 hands.
After this comes your own innovation.

Whatever arrangement works for you and allows you to play better and more comfortably is YOUR piano technique.

So the right piano technique for any piano player is the method of playing that allows you to play with a greater degree of ease and convenience.

For example, a more aggressive style of piano playing may need you to perch yourself more on the edge of the piano, push your bench back and lean more in to the keyboard. This is a technique that allows you to get ‘more at’ at the keyboard.

Many piano players also develop a fingering technique of their own. Just like different guitarists. Which fingers to use for what note and how to interchange when playing down or up the keyboard.
You should go on to YouTube and watch the video of Chico Marx. The way he plays the piano is like nothing you have seen before.

Technique is also closely related to the time tested ways of playing the piano. For example, being seated at the middle C is advised so that you can access all parts of the piano with ease. However, you may lean or shit to the left or the right when you are playing notes to either side constantly.

A good example of this would be when you are playing a digital keyboard that is not of full length. The middle C on such a keyboard may not be of the same pitch as the one on a full 88 key piano. Therefore, you may have to change the placement of your hands accordingly.

So in order to have a good piano technique working for you, start by following the advice that you receive from the masters, and then over time develop a playing method that suits your style, body and allows to play the piano with a greater degree of ease and comfort.

How To Stand and Play the Keyboard

To Sit Or To Stand When Playing the Keyboard.

Standing to play the piano

Strange as it may seem to you some people actually stand when playing the piano. Well not the piano really but when playing a digital keyboard. Pianos are made of almost the same height and it is not possible or feasible to play them standing up.
However, you will have seen several musicians on stage standing up and playing the keyboard.
The main reason for this is how it looks. If the band playing happens to be a pop or rock band, then it looks more conducive to the tempo of the music if the digital keyboard guy is standing up. He is also able to move around and gesticulate more which may something that the stage performance requires or is in keeping with the playing style of the musician.
However, great rock performances that involve a piano still have the artist sitting down and the result is still spectacular.
If you decide to stand and play your keyboard, there are few things that you need to keep in mind as well.
There the height of the keyboard to be considered. Just as when you were playing the piano sitting down, the keyboard needs to be at a height where you don’t have to reach up or down to it. It should be naturally in reach without causing the shoulders to be lifted.
Somewhere around chest height it usually correct. You not have to lean to get to the keyboard.
The advantage of a digital keyboard is that they are kept on stands and the stands can be adjusted to whatever height you wish.
The other thing is how to handle the sustain pedal. When you play sitting down, your body weight is resting on your bottom. The foot that is playing the sustain pedal is angled on the pedal and can be used with ease as it is not supporting the body weight. However, when you are standing up, the feet are balancing you as well as using the sustain pedal.
But no matter. It can be done. Guitarists playing an electric guitar use the sustain pedal all the time.
You will probably need to put it close to you rather than under the keyboard. This too is possible since the pedals for most digital keyboards are detachable units.
Tape it to the stage floor so that it does not keep moving and messes around with your balance.
Standing up to play during stage performance is one thing, but we guess that when practicing or composing you will be sitting down. For that refer to our previous post and get your posture pat down.
All the best!

The Right Posture For Playing the Piano

correct piano playing posture

How To Sit To Play The Piano – The Right Position for Your Back, Arms and Legs.

You probably think you know all that you need to know about how you are supposed to sit down to play the piano. I mean, how complicated can it be?
Heres the thing. Many of us have a certain way of sitting normally. It may the correct way or the wring way. You may feel the repercussions of your posture or you may not now or later in life.
But the fact is that there IS a way you are supposed to sit when you play the piano. Or you definitely will feel the repercussions of a wrong posture as aches, pains and even injury.
The reasons is that when you play the piano, you are performing a certain physical activity in a certain position of the body. As you keep praising and playing more often, this position can affect your muscles and your bones.
It is something like when you work out in a gym. You are taught the proper way to pick up weights that cause the minimal stress in the wrong places and avoid injury. While you are not picking up heavy weights when playing the piano, you are still causing your body stress if you are not sitting in the right posture.
Many of you will have noticed that not having the right cushioning on the car seat or not seating properly causes backaches when driving for prolonged periods of time.
The same is true when sitting to play the piano. When you play the piano, your shoulders, your wrists, your back, your elbows and even your lower part of the body comes in to play. Not playing the piano in the right position can cause pain and injury in any of these parts.
So without further ado, lets talk about what your correct posture for playing the piano should be.
You must have been told many times as a child to sit up straight. Good advice. You need to follow this now.
When playing the piano your back should be straight. No slouching or bending. You can lean forward a little bit towards the keyboard. In fact many players do. Especially when playing something aggressive. It brings you closer and more intimate with the keyboard. But keep your back straight.
Secondly, the seat that you are seated on should not be very soft. Most of the piano benches and stools are hard. Some luxurious ones have cushioning but it is never very soft. You need to be seated firmly at all points of time and the seat should not provide much leverage. If choosing a cushioned seat or stool to play the piano and it has not been specifically made for piano playing, always choose a firm cushion that does not shift with your weight. Otherwise you will get a back pain.
Third, the seat should be high enough so that your shoulders can relax and you do not have to lift them up to reach the keyboard. Your arms should fall almost straight down from your shoulders and be bended at 90 degrees right angle to access the piano keyboard. The shoulders should be completely relaxed and hand down. If your having to lift your shoulders then the piano keyboard is too high.
Basically, the ideal position of the keyboard is when it feels like it is almost sitting on your lap.
If there are adjustments to be made to the height or otherwise, make them to the piano or to the piano seat rather than to your posture. Your posture has to be what it has to be. Don’t make adjustments there.
Your wrists should be relaxed as well. Before you lay them on the keyboard move your wrists up and down a few times to relax them. They should not be locked and there should be no tension. Then lay them on the keyboard so that the wrist acts as movable joint and they are not locked up.

Now for the feet. Your right foot can rest on the left pedal with the toe on the pedal and the heel on the floor. Usually this is the position that most of the piano players take. If you feel the pedal is too high for you to comfortably rest your foot like this, use a piece of carpeting to raise the floor height under the keyboard.
The right foot can be placed in a similar way on the right keyboard. It is also very common to place it on the side and slightly behind the right pedal.
Now that you know the posture for sitting on the piano do your level best to follow it to the tee.
Believe me when I tell you that this is important. And not sitting properly at the piano can and will cause pain and discomfort.
There are also ways to allay injury and pain when staring to play the piano. Doing small hand exercises when ever your fingers and wrists start to hurt is important. Stretch and contract your fingers several times, basically closing the opening your wrist quickly. Rotate your wrist clockwise and anti-clockwise as well as up and down. If your back hurts, get up and walk around. Do some stretching and maybe even leave practising the piano till the next day.
All the best!

Get Familiar With The Piano Keyboard

Meet your piano keyboard

Piano keyboard

A full piano keyboard has 88 keys. From the highest note to the highest the piano has the largest dynamic range as compared to any other music instrument. One of the first things that you will realise about a piano keyboard is that the keys are weightier and feel heavier than most keyboards on the digital counterparts. The keys on a piano keyboard used to be made from ivory, wood etc. Even now the responsiveness of a real piano keyboard is very different from a digital piano. However, this is something that digital piano companies are working aggressively on. And you have digitally weighted keys and touch sensitivity control on digital piano keyboards as well.

Black and White Key Arrangement
The second thing that you will notice about the piano keyboard is the arrangement of the black and white keys. This arrangement if all important in breaking down the keyboard in to parts and different octaves. You can find the right notes and keys with ease in reference to the arrangement of the black and the white keys. For example, the C note is always the white key just below any group of 2 black keys. Note E is the white key immediately after and under the same group and so on.

Black and white key arrangement

Note c on the keyboard

Piano Keyboards can be of different sizes
There are different sizes of keyboard available. Not all pianos or digital keyboards may be 88 keys long. In fact the digital pianos that people use at home are often smaller. The size of the piano keyboard is also called its range since lesser number of keys means that the lowest and highest note possible depends of on how many keys there are.
The keys lower on the keyboard, on the left side player lower notes that get progressively higher as you move up the keyboard.
The black keys on the keyboard are arranged in groups of 2 and 3. This pattern is repeated all thought the keyboard and divides the keyboard in to Octaves.

Keyboard is Divided Into Octaves

Octaves is the next thing that you need to know about your piano keyboard.
There are 12 notes that repeat themselves over and over again all throughout the length of the keyboard. If you were thinking that 88 keys meant 88 different notes, you were mistaken. Actually there are only 7 notes, but when you count their # sharps and b flats, there are 12 in all.
What this means is that you take any key on the keyboard count 12 keys up or down the keyboard and play the same key, you are essentially playing the same note, just in a lower or higher octave.
To make this clearer, let us take the example of the the note C. C note can be found right under the group a 2 black keys. If you press the white key right before this group, you are playing the note C. Not shift your gaze higher up the keyboard and spot the next group of 2 black keys. Once again, play the white note right before this group. You will realise the tonal similarity between the 2. Thats because you are playing the same note. Now try playing the 2 keys together. Try it one finger of both hands, then try to play it with one hand. Put your thumb on the C note with your right hand and with your pinkie play the next higher C note. You are now playing a piano octave.
It should be mentioned here that many times the left hand accompaniments are played this way. The pianists plays the root note of a chord and plays the next higher octave with the 5th finger.

Piano notes octaves

What are Piano Steps
The distance between one note and the piano key next to it is defined as half step. When you are told to move a note half a step up or below, you are being told to shift one key left or right of the note.
The half step is the smallest distance possible between 2 notes. Meaning to say that there are no notes in between.
2 half steps make a full step. So when you are playing a key 2 notes up or below you have covered a full step on the piano keyboard.

What are Piano Intervals
Piano intervals are defined as the distance between 2 keys on the piano. They are denoted in numbers such as thirds, sevenths, ninths etc. The interval depends on the number of keys in between 2 notes being played. Play any 2 keys on the keyboard and you are playing an interval. You will learn and understand more of these with ease with you start to learn piano chords.

Well these are the basics of the piano keyboard. The white keys and the black keys are all the same even though they might look different. Their function is to play different piano notes. All the full notes eg. A B C D E F G lie on the white keys and the sharps and the flats I.e. A# Bb C# etc lie on the black ones.

The Piano Soundboard

Piano soundboard

What is the piano soundbaord? It is a really important part of the piano and crucial in producing the sound that you actually hear coming out from the instrument.

As you have learnt in the post about piano strings and hammers, piano strings are pulled tightly across a wooden frame with pins. These pins can be tightened and loosened and produce the right note when hit with the piano hammers. However, the strings vibrating on their own would not produce enough sound. In fact you would not be able to hear them outside the piano.
The vibration of the strings is amplified by the piano soundboard. Like any other musical instrument that uses strings such as a guitar that uses a hollow sound box under the strings to amplify the sound, the piano uses the soundboard to the same effect.
The soundboard of the piano may or may not be any more important that its other parts, but it is difficult to make and expensive to replace. This piece of information is crucial if you are ever buying a second hand piano. When you have the piano looked over by an expert technician before buying, and you always must, the soundboard needs to be in good condition. If the soundboard is not all right then you might as well pass over the sale because as mentioned it is very expensive to replace. And difficult to find even.
The piano soundboard has to be made from the right wood, of the right thickness and cured for the right amount of time. It is also a part that can get damaged if the piano is carelessly moved about and happens to take a heavy bump or two.
The piano soundboard is slightly curved in shape. This curvature of the soundboard is called the Crown.
This design feature helps in amplifying the sound of the piano to the right extent.

Piano Keys, Hammers and Strings

Piano hammers and strings

Since we are talking about the functioning of the piano in this section, the keys, the hammers and the strings deserve an explanation for a good understanding of your piano.

Piano Keys
Lets start with the piano keys. If you have ever compared an acoustic piano to the digital counterpart one of the things you will notice is the difference in the weight of the keys. The keys of piano feel much more heavier. People who are used to playing only either kind of instrument will have problem handling the other kind.
A piano player will find it difficult to control the key movement on a digital keyboard so much so that the rhythm will go wrong. Because of the difference in the weight of the keys the responsiveness is quiet different as well. In the earlier pianos the keys used to be made out of real ivory.
The digital piano keys are plastic and similar material.
However, the latest digital pianos have started using a technology to introduce weighted keys in their keyboards as well. In some keyboards you can actually adjust how heavy the piano keys feel to touch and how responsive they are.
Similarly when professional piano players are looking to buy a piano, they prefer a certain brand to another because of the feel for the keyboard and which one meets the responsiveness according to their style of playing.

Piano Hammers
The piano keys are just the beginning of the piano action that finally produces the sound. At the other end of it lie the piano hammers that strike the piano strings. The piano hammers are called that but are in fact delicate mechanisms and levers ending in felt covered tips. The piano hammers are made from wood, plastic, leather or a combination of all of the above. The felt covered tips are important in making the kind of sound that comes out of the piano. If these were bare ended hammers the sound of the piano would be very different, metallic and not very nice. The hammers are coupled with an escape mechanism that allows them to bounce right back from the strings after striking them. They are connected to the piano keys with a complex system of levers and are responsive to the touch of the piano player, striking the piano strings as hard and as soft as required.

The system that connects the keys to the hammers has become more complex and sophisticated over the years.

The area of the felt that strikes the piano strings gradually becomes pressed as it comes in contact with the strings repeatedly and often with some force. As a groove starts to develop, this part of the felt hammers can toughen changing the over all sound of the note. With time, if the sound of the piano changes substantially, the felt hammers might need to be replaced.

Piano Strings

The piano strings are the last part that come in to play in the piano sound making mechanism, if you do not count the soundbaord that amplifies the sound that you hear. The strings of the piano are pulled tightly across a metal frame inside the piano that is called a Harp. This is interesting because as we have told you in a previous post, the piano was actually developed from a harp. The strings are tied to the frame with pins that can be tightened or loosed. This is how the tuning of the piano is performed by using a special tuning hammer to turn these pins till the right amount of tautness is achieved to produce the right note.

The principle behind the tuning the strings on any musical instrument is the same. You can think of tuning the strings of the piano akin to tuning the guitar, only a lot more complex and difficult.

You may imagine that there is one string to each note. But there can actually be up to 3 strings per note. This makes the job of the piano tuner more difficult. Not only does he have to ensure that the different notes are tuned correctly but also that all the strings of the same note are on the same pitch. If not, the note can sound really bad.
The thickness of the piano strings varies. This is what creates a different pitch for different note. The strings for the lower notes are thicker than the ones higher up. For this reason, there may only be 2 or even 1 string for the very low notes. Since they are thicker, there is no room to put 3 strings. The strings of the piano require tuning once a year. But at least twice a year is recommended to make sure that your piano does not reach the stage where is begins to sound out of tune. Sometimes a piano can become permanently out of tune if neglected for too long. This problem can be fixed but with some bother.

So now that you know about 3 more components of the piano, hopefully you will appreciate it more and be able to care for it better.

Piano Pitch And Dynamics

Piano dynamcs and pitch

Just a few terms you should be familiar with when beginning to learn the piano.

What is the Pitch of a Piano

The pitch refers to how high or low the note being played or sung is. For example, women can sing higher pitches than men. In a piano the pitch of note increases and becomes higher as you move ‘up’ the keyboard I.e. From left to right.

The piano is different from all other non keyboard interments in the sense that it has the highest pitch range of all. It can play the lowermost and the higher notes than any other non keyboard musical instrument. Another thing of note is that in order to reproduce this pitch variation you simply have to reach out and press the respective key as opposed to wind instruments like the saxophone or a flute where the pitch range depends on the skill of the player. The expert players are able to squeeze out higher notes on these instruments than others. Other instruments like the drums and other percussion instruments also have a pitch. If you notice the drums are also tuned by tightening the knobs on the rim of the drum to make the skin taut. However, there is no variation in the pitch when they are being played.

What are the Dynamics of the Piano

Now for the dynamics of the piano. Dynamics simply means how softly and how loudly an instrument can be played. As you will be well aware, a piano can be played softly and really loudly as well depending on the force with which the piano keys are pressed. In fact the dynamics of the piano have improved over the years with the ‘piano action’ becoming more sensitive and sophisticated and responsive to the touch of the piano player.

Now there are other instruments that can be played loudly and softly. For example, the string instruments like the guitar and the violin. Out of these two, the guitar is probably the more dynamic one. However, as comparisons go, the piano is most dynamic of them all. The range of volume it can be played with ranges from soft and sonorous to a making a racket and bringing the roof down. Adding to the softness of the piano volume is the function of the left and the middle piano pedals. Depending on the make and design of the piano, one or both of them can be used to soften the volume of the piano further.

So without further ado, try experimenting with the pitch and the dynamics on your piano. Try the pitch of the piano by playing the keys on the extreme left of the keyboard and the on the right. Work your way up the keyboard and see how the pitch becomes higher. Getting familiar with the pitch of the piano keyboard will help you get accustomed to the sound of the piano. Often the sound of a song will be decided according to how high or low you want to play on the keyboard.

Check out the dynamics of the piano by hitting the keys softly and then hard. Playing a piano piece with the right volume variation is a talent and important in replicating the original sound. Almost all kind of piano playing requires a variation in the volume. Get familiar with how loud or how soft your piano sounds to different degree of touch. This is all for now regarding the dynamics and pitch of the piano. Enjoy experimenting with your piano!

How Do The Keys Of A Piano Work

working of piano keysIn the last post we promised that we were going to take a more in-depth look in to the crucial components of a piano. This post is about the piano keys and how they work.

There are 88 keys in a full piano keyboard. There are black and white keys and the full keyboard is similar with what you find on a digital key board as well. Now on the outside of it, the whole process seems pretty straight forward. You press a piano key and the piano makes a sound. However, the whole progress that happens when you strike a key on the piano keyboard is actually very complicated.

The keys are levers that trigger off a complex action that ends up in a set of felt covered hammers striking the right string inside. This action starting with the pressing of the piano key that ends up with the hammers striking the strings is called Piano Action. Piano Action is one of the more precise and delicate part of the entire piano. It consists of several precisely made parts coming in to play made out of wood, plastic and even leather. Some of these parts are delicate as well and are more easily damaged and spoilt than others. Between the pressing of the piano key and the strings being played there is a complex system of levers and gears that makes the entire action happen.

The piano action of the piano determines how smoothly the piano keyboard keys get pressed and how responsive they are to touch. A piano technician and tuner must know how the piano action works in order to maintain the piano and ensure proper functioning of the piano keys. The entire piano action can be taken out of the piano to repair and fix. Also, whenever there is a problem with the piano key such as the key getting stuck or one key not being as responsive as others, it is generally something wrong with the piano action.

The way the piano keys work in the piano has become more complex over the years. The piano action is now more sophisticated than it first was. And with it so is the piano playing experience. It was not so many years back when the piano was first made. But then, the piano action or rather the keys were not so smooth to play with the earlier pianos.

One another thing that you should know about the piano keys is that when you press the key, the hammer strikes the strings inside and immediately bounces back even if you keep the key pressed. This is the Escape Mechanism that every piano has. So now that you know how the keys of a piano work, you will get more pleasure out of playing them to your favourite tune!. All the best.